A new species of firefly was discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, in Topanga. The glow of this new species is nothing compared to its cousins which can light up gardens on warm summer evenings. It’s half a centimeter long and contains a faint glow.Nonetheless this new discovery is exciting people because fireflies are thought to nonexistent in Southern California.
Entomologists state that fireflies do exist in the region; they are rarely seen and difficult for even the professionals to find.
Doug Yanega of the Entomology Research Museum at UC Riverside said the museum has fewer than 30 local firefly specimens in its collection, although the entire collection has about 4 million bug specimens going back a 100 years. “So that’s all we found with all the students, staff and faculty collecting over the past century,” he said.
Yanega stated that it had more to do with being at the right place at the right time.
Firefly expert Marc Branham of the University of Florida in Gainesville said there are 18 known species of fireflies in California, compared with 56 species in Florida, and 2,200 described species worldwide.
Western U.S has fewer fireflies and the reason for this is unknown.
He added that many of the fireflies on the West Coast are bioluminescent only when they are in the larval stage. By the time they grow into adulthood, they no longer glow.
“West of western Kansas, it is very rare to see flashing fireflies,” he said. “And even the ones that do glow can be very small and their glow can be so faint that it is difficult to see.”
Fireflies are most probably in lots of other locations, but researchers don’t have good maps of species distribution.
Fireflies are known to prefer wet habitats that have an abundance of snails, their favorite food. Even the few species spotted in Southern California have been found near springs, seeps and streams.
They are only active in the summer months, between May and July.
An undergrad student of UC Riverside, Joshua Olivia caught the still unnamed firefly species.
Yanega is not ready to identify the exact spot where the bug was found, but said it was in a fairly developed area of Topanga Canyon, where a natural low spot in the ground gathers water on a temporary basis.
Fireflies communicate using their flashing lights. If you want to catch one, you have to act like one. First, turn off your exterior house lights—these may confuse fireflies and make them less likely to respond to light signals from other fireflies. Then take a flashlight outside.